### Show Me The Money!

In my Oct. 11 post, I created a chart showing how much spending on K-12 public education changed from 1992 to 2008, compared to the change in student achievement.

The Childrenâ€™s Educational Alliance of Missouri took that chart and made this interesting infographic. It displays clearly that spending on education, in inflation adjusted dollars, has grown dramatically, while achievement has not.

If anyone asks, how do we improve education in Missouri? The answer cannot simply be more money. That is a method we have been trying and it has been proven that it does not work. What we need is to reinvent public education by equipping parents with options and allowing schools to be innovative.

These numbers do not show what you seem to think they show. The fact that spending increased by a much higher percentage is close to meaningless. Similarly, we could conclude nothing from the numbers if spending and test scores rose by the same percentage. The numbers actually show that more spending means higher test scores in three out of four categories.

Using the raw numbers, which we shouldn’t do but which you have done, we can figure out how much extra money it would take to achieve some goal. For example, between 1992 and 2009, real expenditures per pupil rose by about $3300 in 2009 dollars, while the 8th grade math score increased by 15 points. This means that each point cost $220 dollars per pupil. So, to match the score of Massachusetts (the state with the highest score), which was 13 points higher than that of Missouri, we would have to spend an additional $2860 per pupil, assuming constant returns.

Perhaps that’s more than we have or than we want to spend, but that’s what the raw numbers tell us. I don’t believe it, myself, because careful statistical analyses that control for other factors show that spending has no significant effect. However, a person could use something very similar to your approach to show the opposite of what you think that you are showing.

Comment by Howard Wall — December 4, 2012 @ 4:52 p.m.

Howard,

Thanks for your comments. You are certainly correct that these numbers in isolation do not prove that increased spending improves student achievement any more than a year to year drop in test scores proves that increased spending diminishes student achievement. But, I feel comfortable posting this infographic and the original table from October 11th for two reasons.

First, I know the larger context. Long(er) term trends from all 50 states demonstrate that we have increased spending at incredible rates, with very little to show in terms of academic achievement. Moreover, I know that statistical analysis, like the study by Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessman that I cited in my Sept. 5th post, demonstrate that spending increases have little impact on test scores.

Secondly, tables like the one I created and like this infographic created by CEAM make sense to the average person. Intuitively, people see this information and understand the point, much more than they would if I put up regression results.

Nevertheless, we are in agreement that simply spending more money is not a guarantee of results.

Regards,

James

Comment by James Shuls — December 5, 2012 @ 10:35 a.m.